He was a loner. We watched him sitting on the bench in the park every day, reading a newspaper or writing in his leather bound journal. He was too old to be alone, yet too robust and energetic for his age. He would just sit there like a statue, staring into space which sometimes made us think he was depressed. He was from the same neighborhood as I had seen him coming from the Old Age nursing home near my place. Today, as I passed the same bench, he was not there and it made me wonder about his whereabouts. It had been days since I hadn’t seen him there and it made me curious. I passed on the same old home on my way back, out of curiosity, I went inside. The old home was as gloomy and depressing as its inhabitants. The walls were painted cream, the furniture dark green and there was a musty smell of antiseptics. It made me gag. I looked around at the old men and women sitting around, some having an IV attached to their frail arms, some were sitting in the corner reading newspapers. I looked around for him, scrutinizing everyone carefully. A nursed walked out of the room, carrying a stack of journals that the old man always used to carry.
“Excuse me, Miss!” I called out to her. She turned around to look at me, one eyebrow raised in question.
“May I know where is that old man, who comes to the park down the street every day? I haven’t seen him for quite a few days now.” She looked at me like I was talking gibberish. I repeated my question.
“Sorry sir, but if you know the name of the patient, that would be more helpful and time saving.” She said impatiently.
“He hasn’t been there for one week and neither have I seen him around. He writes these kinds of journals, the ones you are holding. I have always seen them in his hands.”
“Oh, do you mean Mr. Watson? He has had a heart attack five days ago and has been in surveillance since then.” She said.
“Can I visit him?” I asked.
“Sure. Go straight and then the fourth door on your right. That’s his room.” She smiled at me and left. I walked down the corridor, the pungent smell getting to my brain. I paused outside the specified room, suddenly uncertain but then I gathered my courage and moved inside. He was lying in his bed, propped up on pillows, reading a book. He removed his glasses when he saw me and laid down the book.
“How may I help you?” He asked me, smiling slightly. He had recognized me, his smile was indication enough.
“I haven’t seen you around for a week now, just wanted to know if you are okay.” There was an awkward silence in which he scrutinized me with his keen, amber eyes. Minutes later, he smiled and signaled me towards a chair.
“Have a seat.” I sat down, uncertain as to what to talk about. I started on his health.
“The nurse outside told me you’ve had a heart attack. How have you been faring so far?”
“I am fine,” he chuckled, “these doctors and nurses are crazy.” He winked at me and I couldn’t help but laugh. We talked a lot, about every subject possible and I was impressed. He could talk about any topic that I chose and he had something to say on every matter. He told me he was a novelist before he had a heart attack when he was around fifty years of age. He was from a very rich and wealthy New York family and he completed his education at the age of 25. He started his writing career when he was just a teenager and then he wrote repeatedly. The world knew him as the author of humorous stories, his friends knew him as a sophisticated person and his family, and they ridiculed him. He left home when he graduated and never looked back. Wealth was not what he searched for; he wanted peace, tranquility and quiet. He sought that in nature and loneliness and found it out eventually. His novels had been a huge success and the world knew him as “The Great Novelist”. When I looked back at my childhood, I remembered hearing his name in the news and reviews. In one short visit, he became my inspiration. I felt inclined to write his biography, to tell the world what a great person he was. I started visiting him every day, as he was not allowed to walk to the park anymore; I sat days and nights with him. Reading him excerpts and stories made me feel good, his sense of humor was awesome when he pointed out some interesting facts to me. In this world, novelists and writers are not being read as much but there are people with exceptional talents out there somewhere, striving to be recognized.
Four months later, I walked into his room, carrying a beautiful bouquet of lilies to see him sitting in his bed, his journal open on his lap. I knew he hadn’t written because he had been telling me his stories.
“What’s up, old man?” I joked as I placed those flowers in a vase on his bedside table. He smiled grimly and closed his journal.
“The doctors say that my heart is not able to support me anymore. I may die anytime now.” His face was so serious; I was paralyzed for a moment.
“They can’t help me, they say. As if they will repair my heart.” He grinned. “Here, come sit with me.” I sat down near him, holding his hand.
“In my cupboard, there are journals about my life, my history, my achievements and I want you to keep them with you. One day, you will learn from my experiences and I will be recognized as the great author this part of the world has seen.” He squeezed my hand and two tears from my eyes dropped on them. I felt that day that I had lost him; I would never see him again, never hear that laugh of his again. I left there with a heavy heart, unaware that today was the last day I would see him with the light in his eyes and that grin on his face.
Next day, I got the call from the nursing home that he was no more. I couldn’t believe the fact that I had gotten close to him in such a short time. He was my idol and my mentor. I would miss him forever.